De Beers Worries EU Will Squelch Branding

October 5, 1999

De Beers Worries EU Will Squelch Branding

European competition rules may prohibit De Beers from going forward with its plan to brand diamonds, the company's chairman, Nicholas Oppenheimer, told the Financial Times this week.

Despite rumors, the European Commission has not begun a formal investigation of De Beers for anti-competitive behavior, and De Beers isn't yet in talks with the EU over the matter. Oppenheimer said the company is still anticipating legal problems. "There's a very good chance that the common market [European Commission] might say that that is an abuse of your dominant position, because you're doing something for your sightholders which is not done for the world at large," he told FT.

De Beers tested its branded diamond concept in British jewelry stores this year with favorable results. However, De Beers' international trade director, Derek Palmer, recently told Professional Jeweler the company had postponed its decision whether to sell its branded diamonds worldwide until the middle of next year. (See related story.)

- by Stacey King